Virginia’s new tuition-free program to help qualifying adults pursue jobs in high-demand fields such as health care and manufacturing doesn’t currently apply to programs at the Charlottesville Albemarle Technical Education Center.
However, a partnership with Piedmont Virginia Community College could change that. If PVCC became the operator of CATEC’s adult programs that fall under the state’s G3 initiative, then students enrolled could have their tuition, fees and books paid for.
“I think we can do something great for the community,” PVCC President Frank Friedman told CATEC board members at a meeting this past week. “... This is a chance to really do something for people who want to get into those programs but can’t afford it.”
The CATEC board started discussing the possibility of partnering with Piedmont at the meeting, and officials from both schools will look into whether it’s feasible. The boards of both schools would have to sign off on any agreement. The classes would still be held at the CATEC facility.
“Nothing’s going to happen unless we’re all happy with the partnership and the arrangement,” Friedman said.
G3 stands for Get Skilled, Get a Job, Give Back. The program was created during the most recent session of the General Assembly to cover the cost of select programs connected to in-demand industries: health care, information technology, manufacturing and skilled trades, early childhood education and public safety. Students enrolled in a Virginia community college and who have a household income less than or equal to 400% of the federal poverty level qualify.
CATEC offers a range of technical programs and apprenticeships, such as in electrical, automotive, plumbing and nursing, in addition to its classes for high school students. The adult programs are self-funded and offered in the evening. Those classes aren’t eligible for financial aid, though CATEC officials have looked at becoming accredited to make those programs more accessible.
Several CATEC classes could be eligible for G3, including those for auto technology, emergency medical technician, certified nurse aide and plumbing. PVCC does not provide as much technical education.
“It’s really an opportunity for a large portion of the community to have access to trade education for free,” CATEC Director Stephanie Carter said of the partnership.
Carter recommended to the center board that they consider starting G3 programming in spring 2022 to give CATEC and PVCC time to work on the logistics of a potential partnership.
“The sooner we can figure this out and bring something free to our community, the better,” she said.
Friedman said CATEC should continue to operate the programs that aren’t G3-eligible.
G3 would cover the related technical instruction for apprenticeships, which make up the bulk of CATEC’s adult enrollment. In an apprenticeship, the employer might pay some or all of the costs.
Carter said G3 could help to bring in more small businesses that haven’t been able to sustain an apprenticeship program because of the cost.
“I think our responsibility really is to strengthen our students’ individual pipelines,” she said. “Whether it’s apprenticeship or whether it’s one of these programs through G3, we have a responsibility to make sure that we are doing that for individuals students that enter the halls of CATEC, and making sure that we are doing everything we can to make the most affordable route to a living wage and successful fulfilling career possible.”